Posts Tagged ‘cancer treatment’

Working During Cancer Treatment

Working with CancerTo work, or not to work, during cancer treatment is often a very real decision that patients must make. Some patients need to continue working during treatment for financial support, or to keep their insurance coverage, or just an overall desire to continue working. Working during treatment can be difficult depending on the type of treatment a patient receives, but also on the type of work a patient does. For example, a patient who can work from home may be able to continuing working whereas a patient with a job that requires more physical demands may be unable to continue working. Here are a few things to remember when working during cancer treatment:

  • Discuss your job situation with your medical team. It is important for your medical team to be aware of your desire or need to work during treatment. This may help in determining a treatment schedule that works best for you in order to continue working. Also, discussing the type of work you do with your medical team will allow them to provide you with appropriate information about how your treatment may affect your ability to perform the duties of your job.
  • Depending on your level of comfort, talk with your employer or human resource department about your diagnosis and treatment schedule. This will allow you to discuss any accommodations you may need in order to complete your job tasks. This is also an opportunity to discuss the possibility of working from home.
  • Consider utilizing the Family Medical Leave Act, if you are eligible. This important legislation was put in place in order to protect patients when they must leave work in order to receive medical care. Consult your human resources department for additional guidance in determining if you are covered through this.
  • Consult your human resource department regarding possible short-term or long-term disability benefits you may have available. There may be times in which patients are unable to work due to lengthy hospitalizations or because their medical team advises against it. In instances such as these, you may consider utilizing your short-term and long-term disability benefits in order to continue receiving some income.
  • If you are comfortable, talk with your coworkers about your diagnosis and treatment. Coworkers can be a strong source of support and encouragement during these difficult times. This may also help in developing a work schedule that works for you during treatment.
  • Talk with the social worker at your oncology office. Social workers may be able to help problem solve any concerns or issues you may be having with your employer.

Although working during cancer treatment may be challenging, it does not have to be impossible. Just talking with others about this may help you get the assistance you need.

About Joy McCall, LCSW

Joy McCallJoy McCallJoy McCall is a Winship social worker with bone marrow transplant, hematology and gynecologic teams and their patients. She started her professional career at Winship as an intern, working with breast, gynecologic, brain and melanoma cancer patients. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Kennesaw State University and a Master of Social Work from the University of Georgia. As part of her education she completed an internship with the Marcus Institute working on the pediatric feeding unit, and an internship counseling individuals and couples at Families First, supporting families and children facing challenges to build strong family bonds and stability for their future. She had previously worked with individuals with developmental disabilities for over 4 years, providing support to families and caregivers.

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Fundamental Science Can Transform Cancer Care Worldwide

World Cancer Day is February 4, and it is an important reminder that cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, the number of new cases is expected to rise by about 70% in the next two decades. This gives us all the more reason to recognize the progress that has been made because of discoveries by fundamental, or basic, cancer researchers. Our task now is to bring the benefits of that work to patients around the world. Check out this short video where Fadlo R. Khuri, MD, Deputy Director of Winship Cancer Institute discusses these discoveries in fundamental cancer research:

The theme of this year’s World Cancer Day, “Not Beyond Us,” highlights solutions that are within our reach. In that spirit, we celebrate 2014 as a landmark year for cancer research, discovery, treatment and prevention. Important progress was made in a number of areas: screening and prevention of cancers, development of novel targeted therapies for cancers, and immunotherapy of a number of previously resistant diseases. Over the past year, we saw at least a half dozen new approvals by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) of new, improved, potent targeted therapies, chemotherapies, and immunotherapies for cancer, whose impact is most acutely felt in societies in North America, Europe, Eastern Asia, Australia and South America. Our therapeutic resources have been significantly advanced by these discoveries, all of which spring from major biologic breakthroughs in the laboratory. What should the next steps be in ensuring that the powerful tools of genomic medicine, immunology, and molecular imaging continue to flourish and impact cancer patients worldwide? How do we make sure that personalized, precision medicine can be practiced to benefit oncology patients globally?

Fundamental to progress in cancer diagnosis, treatment and prevention is continued investment in fundamental cancer research. In a decade in which the growth of real federal funding for basic and translational research in cancer has slowed noticeably in the United States, this challenge has been counterbalanced on some levels by substantial increases in investment in basic and translational research in Asia (China and India in particular), Europe (Germany and Great Britain in particular), and Australia. Nonetheless, research conducted in United States laboratories remains the major driver of cancer discovery in the areas of genomics, immunology, and prevention, and in the translation of these discoveries from the bench to the bedside, aided by accelerated developments in the biotech and pharmaceutical world. On-going support for researchers in the fundamental sciences will ensure that these new discoveries will continue to substantially enhance our therapeutic and preventive arsenal against cancer. Fundamental science is vital to the global war against cancer.

As discoveries accelerate, and increasing numbers of affordable new treatment modalities are brought into the clinic, making an impact on diseases from Africa and Australia, through Asia and Europe, and all the way to the Americas, we must continue to support, guard, and mentor our treasure trove of outstanding scientists and clinical investigators. Over the next several decades, these individuals will be the key to sustaining and accelerating the major advances that are being made against cancer. Discoveries in the labs of outstanding scientists in basic immunology, genomics, glycomics and metabolomics, and in understanding the biologic behavior of normal, pre-malignant, and cancerous cells, pave the way for clinical translations that improve the prevention and therapy of our global population as a whole.

About Dr. Khuri

Fadlo Khuri, MDFadlo R. Khuri, MD, deputy director of the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, professor and chairman of the Department of Hematology & Medical Oncology, Emory University School of Medicine, and executive associate dean for research of Emory University, is a leading researcher and physician in the treatment of lung and head and neck cancers. He is Editor-in-Chief of the American Cancer Society’s peer-reviewed journal, Cancer.

Dr. Khuri’s contributions have been recognized by a number of national awards, including the prestigious 2013 Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Memorial Award, given to an outstanding cancer researcher by the American Association for Cancer Research.

An accomplished molecular oncologist and translational thought leader, Dr. Khuri has conducted seminal research on oncolytic viral therapy, developed molecular-targeted therapeutic approaches for lung and head and neck tumors combining signal transduction inhibitors with chemotherapy, and has led major chemoprevention efforts in lung and head and neck cancers. Dr. Khuri’s clinical interests include thoracic and head and neck oncology. His research interests include development of molecular, prognostic, therapeutic, and chemopreventive approaches to improve the standard of care for patients with tobacco related cancers. His laboratory is investigating the mechanism of action of signal transduction inhibitors in lung and aerodigestive track cancers.

Easing the Tension of Traveling for Cancer Treatment

Travel for TreatmentAs a social worker at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, I see many patients who travel from out of the state and the country in order to receive medical care. Their cancer treatment can sometimes be scheduled every day for six weeks or more. This can add a lot of stress to an already difficult situation.

It can be daunting to arrange all the transportation and lodging logistics, especially for an extended period of time. Patients and caregivers are also faced with being away from the comforts of their own home and support of loved ones who may live close by. Here are a few tips to consider if you have to travel for treatment:

  1. Contact your medical insurance company regarding travel benefits. Some insurers will provide transportation and lodging benefits in the form of reimbursements if patients must receive treatment a great distance from their home.
  2. Discuss hardships with your medical team. Make sure that your doctor and nurse navigator are aware of any financial hardship you are going through in order to get treatment. Some patients may be able to receive their therapy closer to home at a local infusion or radiation center. They can still continue to be followed by their preferred physician who is out of town.
  3. Reach out to loved ones for support. Many family members and friends may be unsure of how to help when a patient is undergoing treatment, however, they are longing to be able to provide some sort of assistance. Don’t be reluctant to request help with transportation or other needs.
  4. Consider holding a community fundraiser. Many families underestimate the cost of medical care and all that comes with it. Reality can hit when they are fully involved in the treatment process. Fundraisers are a great way to reach out to community members and request assistance. This assistance can then be used to help cover the extra expenses of transportation to a treatment facility or lodging away from home.
  5. Reach out to a social worker at the clinic where you or your family member receives treatment. There may be additional resources or discounts through community agencies that offer further support when a patient or family must travel

Finally, if you have to stay at a hotel during medical treatment, be sure to bring along some special items that will remind you of home. Photos, a cozy blanket and a favorite sweatshirt can help make home feel a whole lot closer. Click to learn more about available resources at Winship for our patients and families.

About Joy McCall, LCSW

Joy McCallJoy McCall is a Winship social worker with bone marrow transplant, hematology and gynecologic teams and their patients. She started her professional career at Winship as an intern, working with breast, gynecologic, brain and melanoma cancer patients. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Kennesaw State University and a Master of Social Work from the University of Georgia. As part of her education she completed an internship with the Marcus Institute working on the pediatric feeding unit, and an internship counseling individuals and couples at Families First, supporting families and children facing challenges to build strong family bonds and stability for their future. She had previously worked with individuals with developmental disabilities for over 4 years, providing support to families and caregivers.

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Getting the Best Cancer Treatments into Outlying Communities

Cancer Treatment in CommunitiesThe purpose of the community outreach program I oversee at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University is to bring our clinical and population-based research to communities throughout Georgia and surrounding states in order to benefit patients in those areas. By partnering with community oncologists, we can offer our expertise and best practices to help them successfully treat patients with types of cancer that are less common or more difficult to treat.

A great example of this is a program we’ve developed to treat patients with acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), an uncommon but highly aggressive disease. We actually call it the heart attack of leukemias because a third of the patients do not survive the first month of treatment. We have chemotherapeutic drugs that are very effective in treating APL, but because it is a rare condition, physicians who treat it in the community may not be familiar with the potential complications that patients may develop during treatment.

Yet it is a highly curable disease, and at Winship we have come up with a simple approach that is keeping these patients alive during the first, most crucial month. This method decreases mortality from an estimated 30 percent to less than five percent.

We started by taking a very complicated treatment algorithm and simplifying it to a page and a half, and then used that to develop a three-step process to help community oncologists treat patients quickly and effectively. As soon as we get a call from a community physician, we send the simplified algorithm via smart phone. Then we talk to the physician on the phone and figure out what the patient is going through. Lastly, we give them a treatment plan to get them through the first month and follow up with emails, phone calls or text messages.

We’re grateful that community doctors are receptive to the guidance offered by Winship. By taking swift action, they are giving their APL patients the best chance of survival. It’s extremely gratifying to see people in outlying parts of Georgia and South Carolina receive this treatment protocol and survive this disease.

Watch Dr. Jillella explain the way Winship is helping save patients’ lives following diagnosis of acute promyelocytic leukemia in the video below:

About Dr. Jillella

Anand Jillella, MDAnand Jillella, MD, is a national leader in bone marrow transplantation and has led the development of a strategy to decrease induction mortality for acute promyelocytic leukemia. He leads the efforts of the Winship Cancer Network and is expanding Winship’s role in bringing clinical and population-based cancer research to communities throughout Georgia and surrounding states.

Caring for the Caregiver

Cancer CaregiverCaring for a loved one who has been diagnosed with cancer is such an important role. Most often it is a spouse, family member or close friend who becomes the primary caregiver for the patient. It’s a big responsibility that can, at times, be overwhelming. Sometimes we forget that caregivers need to be taken care of too.

Here are some tips for caring for the caregiver:

  • Reach out to other friends and family members for assistance. Make a list of duties that need to be completed in order to care for the patient. Ask others to help complete those tasks. This can help alleviate some stress for the caregiver.
  • Sign up for a caregiver support group. This can introduce you to other caregivers who are in a similar situation. It is also a great way to share ideas and tips. Winship Cancer Institute has a Caregiver Support Group that meets on the third Wednesday of each month for caregivers of cancer patients. Caregivers may also be interested in reaching out to other caregivers for some one-on-one support.
  • Make sure you are getting enough sleep and rest. Seven to eight hours of sleep each night can help you recharge your body and mind and give you more energy.
  • Consider relaxation techniques like meditation and yoga. Journaling is another great way to help process your feelings. This can be helpful in coping with some of the stress related to caregiving.
  • Don’t neglect your own health. Be sure to schedule and keep your own doctor appointments. It is common for caregivers to put all of their focus on the patient’s needs and ignore their own health. If you are a caregiver, you must take good care of yourself; otherwise, your own health concerns may make you unable to continue taking care of the patient.
  • Make time for yourself. It is important that caregivers do things that they enjoy doing, such as spending time with friends, participating in a hobby or exercising.

It’s easy to burn out while caring for a loved one with a serious medical condition. Pace yourself and know that you have don’t have to go it alone.

About Joy McCall, LMSW

Joy McCallJoy McCall is a Winship social worker with bone marrow transplant, hematology and gynecologic teams and their patients. She started her professional career at Winship as an intern, working with breast, gynecologic, brain and melanoma cancer patients. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Kennesaw State University and a Master of Social Work from the University of Georgia. As part of her education she completed an internship with the Marcus Institute working on the pediatric feeding unit, and an internship counseling individuals and couples at Families First, supporting families and children facing challenges to build strong family bonds and stability for their future. She had previously worked with individuals with developmental disabilities for over 4 years, providing support to families and caregivers.

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Caregivers of Cancer Patients Need Care Too
Support Groups at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University
American Cancer Society
CancerCare

What You Need to Know About Personalized Cancer Care

personal cancer careThe most promising advances in cancer treatment today center around personalized or precision medicine, but what exactly does that mean? We asked Dr. Fadlo Khuri, deputy director of the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, to explain the terms and help us understand who is benefitting from these types of treatment.

Q: What is personalized or precision medicine in cancer treatment?

Khuri: The best individualized care plan for every patient is one that delivers the most precise, informed and effective treatment possible. One of the new tools we use today in order to add to the patient’s medical history, social history, and pathologic diagnosis, is modern molecular testing.

Q: What is molecular testing?

Khuri: Molecular testing in cancer is performed on tissue taken during a tumor biopsy. Several tests can be done to reveal the genetic makeup of the mutation present in the cells of a particular cancer, such as non-small cell lung cancer. This genetic mapping, or DNA sequencing, is called genomics.

Q: People are familiar with genetic testing for the BRCA gene mutations that cause ovarian and breast cancers. But how are genomics or genetic targeting used in cancer treatment?

Khuri: Genomics uses modern DNA sequencing methods, recombinant DNA and informatics to study the complete genetic makeup of individual cells, patients, populations and their diseases. We learn how certain gene mutations, such as EGFR or ALK mutations in lung cancer, determine a tumor’s behavior and survival. We use these driver mutations to design treatments that specifically target the protein product of the mutated (or altered) genes. This leads to more targeted treatments based on an individual patient’s cancer.

Q: What is immunotherapy and how is it being used at Winship?

Khuri: Immunotherapy is a type of treatment that stimulates a patient’s own immune system to either work harder overall, or to attack cancer cells specifically. We are exploring immunotherapy at Winship through research and clinical trials. We have a series of clinical trials designed to activate or drive the immune system to recognize the individual’s cancer as foreign to their body, such as vaccines or immune checkpoint inhibitors, to attack the tumor.

Q: Which type of patients benefit from immunotherapy?

Khuri: Patients with leukemia, lymphomas, myeloma, lung cancer, kidney cancer and especially melanoma seem to benefit from immunotherapy. Other diseases are also being studied. Immunotherapies are demonstrating durable (long lasting) responses in a number of the above tumor types, and this has added a powerful new option to the toolbox of targeted therapies of cancer.

Q: What are the advantages and challenges?

Khuri: The advantages include the durability of the responses seen, but the people with cancer who benefit are in the minority so far. Efforts at developing efficient and precise ways to deliver immunotherapy are ongoing.

Q: What is the latest research at Winship that is related to precision medicine?

Khuri: Winship has clinical trials in myeloma, lung cancer, leukemia, lymphoma, breast cancer, colon cancer, thyroid cancer and melanoma which target specific driver mutations and are excellent examples of precision medicine.

Q: How have these approaches changed the way doctors now treat cancer patients?

Khuri: Many centers, like Winship, do reflex testing, which automatically sends a patient’s sample for a molecular screening panel that looks for tumor mutations. Certain gene mutations are known to drive cancer growth, cause drug resistance or susceptibility, or are currently under investigation as therapeutic targets in clinical trials, so the results of those tests can determine the type of treatment a patient receives.

About Dr. Khuri

Fadlo Khuri, MDFadlo R. Khuri, MD, deputy director of the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University and Professor and Chairman of the Department of Hematology & Medical Oncology, Emory University School of Medicine, is a leading researcher and physician in the treatment of lung and head and neck cancers. He is Editor-in-Chief of the American Cancer Society’s peer-reviewed journal, Cancer.
Dr. Khuri’s contributions have been recognized by a number of national awards, including the prestigious 2013 Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Memorial Award, given to an outstanding cancer researcher by the American Association for Cancer Research.

An accomplished molecular oncologist and translational thought leader, Dr. Khuri has conducted seminal research on oncolytic viral therapy, developed molecular-targeted therapeutic approaches for lung and head and neck tumors combining signal transduction inhibitors with chemotherapy, and has led major chemoprevention efforts in lung and head and neck cancers. Dr. Khuri’s clinical interests include thoracic and head and neck oncology. His research interests include development of molecular, prognostic, therapeutic, and chemopreventive approaches to improve the standard of care for patients with tobacco related cancers. His laboratory is investigating the mechanism of action of signal transduction inhibitors in lung and aerodigestive track cancers.

Related Resources

Genomic Testing for Lung Cancer: What Does it Mean for You?

Tackling Cancer on World Cancer Day*

World Cancer DayWe experience the burden of cancer here in Georgia and throughout the U.S., but cancer is not just an American problem. It is the leading cause of death worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, cancer accounted for 7.6 million deaths (about 13% of all deaths) in 2008 and that number is projected to rise to 13.1 million deaths in 2030.

Every day, my Winship colleagues and I seek to identify better ways to prevent, treat, and ultimately cure cancer. Fortunately, we do not work in isolation. Our efforts are part of a global collaborative of cancer researchers and doctors, and one of the most rewarding aspects of this work is joining forces with scientists from all over the world who are committed to a shared goal of ending cancer.

Imagine a global community of scientists in continual conversation about the most up-to-date mindset for treating cancer. We are a vital part of that conversation.

I made two international trips late last year which captured the spirit of collaboration in cancer research. One trip was to Australia, stopping first at the World Conference on Lung Cancer in Sydney, and then on to Brisbane, where a unique partnership called the Queensland Emory Development Alliance (QED) is bringing together outstanding researchers from Emory, The University of Queensland (UQ) and the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR), to collaborate on new research projects primarily in the realm of cancer and infectious disease.

Several Winship faculty including William Dynan and Dennis Liotta are currently collaborating on cancer research projects with new colleagues at UQ and QIMR. My visit to Brisbane has resulted in early work towards furthering these and other collaborations. The World Conference on Lung Cancer in Sydney highlighted a number of important findings in our struggle against the leading cancer killer resulting from work conducted among my colleagues in Asia, Europe, and the United States.

In December, I flew to Chengdu, China, as a guest of the Chinese Society of Radiation Oncology (CSTRO) to deliver the keynote address at the annual CSTRO Symposium. As evidenced in this conference and in my subsequent visits to large cancer centers in Bejing and Jinan, there have been remarkable advances in cancer research and cancer care in China. There is also a tremendous level of collaboration between investigators at major Chinese universities and faculty at Winship and other major American cancer centers. Currently my colleagues and I are working each week on a clinical trial underway at eight Chinese cancer centers, comparing stereotactic radiation to surgery for patients with early stage lung cancer. I had a chance to meet with all of my colleagues conducting this research in China during my visit there and to celebrate this progress!

I’m extremely proud of the work performed here at Winship that contributes to advancing cancer research throughout the world. International conferences, as well as the many times we host scientists from other countries here on the Emory campus, enable us to share information and resources and benchmark our own contributions. But it’s when I return to Winship and see patients who are benefiting from discoveries made by my colleagues here and elsewhere, the value of collaboration truly hits home.

Seeing even one patient improve from the advances we make in cancer research and treatment is a reward worth sharing with the world.

*February 4th is World Cancer Day, when international health organizations support the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) in promoting ways to ease the global burden of cancer. This year’s theme, “Debunk the myths,” focuses on improving general knowledge about cancer in order to reduce stigma and dispel misconceptions about the disease. More information: http://www.worldcancerday.org

Author: Walter J. Curran, Jr., MD, executive director, Winship Cancer Institute

About Dr. Walter Curran
Walter J. Curran Jr., MDWalter J. Curran, M.D. was appointed Executive Director of Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University in 2009. He joined Emory in January 2008, as the Lawrence W. Davis Professor and Chairman of Emory’s Department of Radiation Oncology. He also serves as Group Chairman and Principal Investigator of the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG), a National Cancer Institute-funded cooperative group, a position he has held since 1997. Curran has been named a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and Chair in Cancer Research as well as a Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar.

Dr. Curran has been a principal investigator on over thirty National Cancer Institute-supported grants and is considered an international expert in the management of patients with locally advanced lung cancer and malignant brain tumors. He has led several landmark clinical and translational trials in both areas and is responsible for defining a universally adopted staging system for patients with malignant glioma and for leading the randomized trial which defined the best therapeutic approach to patients with locally advanced lung cancer. He serves as the Founding Secretary/Treasurer of the Coalition of Cancer Cooperative Groups and is a Board Member of the Georgia Center for Oncology Research and Education (Georgia CORE). Dr. Curran is the only radiation oncologist to have ever served as Director of a National Cancer Institute-Designated Cancer Center.

Dr. Curran is a Fellow in the American College of Radiology and has been awarded honorary memberships in the European Society of Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology and the Canadian Association of Radiation Oncology. According to the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research, Dr. Curran ranked among the top ten principal investigators in terms of National Cancer Institute grant awards in 2013, and was first among investigators in Georgia, and first among cancer center directors.

Winship: Year in Review

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory UniversityAs we near the end of 2013, it’s common to reflect on events from the past year, both the challenging and the inspiring. For the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, it was an exciting year as strides were made in many areas, including enrolling over 800 patients in clinical trials, breaking ground on the Emory Proton Therapy Center, performing our 4,000th bone marrow and stem cell transplant and continuing to pioneer exciting research discoveries, such as the development of drug therapies aimed to cure brain cancer.

Winship opened its doors in 1937 and was the first center to provide advanced care for cancer patients in the Southeast. Today, as Georgia’s only National Cancer Institute – designated cancer center, Winship is among the nation’s leading institutions as it continues to pursue a future where cancer ceases to exist.

Through the generosity of donations of any size, as well as fundraising events like the Winship Win the Fight 5K, the physicians, staff and researchers at Winship are working harder than ever to achieve that goal for the residents of Georgia and beyond. The video below recaps some of the 2013 achievements as we prepare to welcome 2014 with eagerness and hopefulness!

Emory’s Bone Marrow Transplant Team Turns Despair into Hope

Debbie Barth suffered from aplastic anemia, a disease in which bone marrow doesn’t make enough new blood cells, and she was getting worse. She had had blood infusion after blood infusion, but they no longer helped her. She was possibly facing death after two years of living with the illness.

Debbie was being treated at an Atlanta hospital where doctors told her they would not give her a bone marrow transplant, which was her only real hope for surviving the chronic condition that was stealing more of her life each day.

Bone Marrow Transplant Patient

Debbie Barth, pictured at far left behind her mother Joanie, with family.

“I was at the end of my rope, and they wouldn’t even take me,” Debbie said, still incredulous that she could be turned away for what could be live-saving care.

Fortunately for Debbie and her family, someone told her about Dr. Edmund K. Waller at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University and the Emory Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Center. She made an appointment to see him, and that’s when everything changed.

Debbie’s mother Joanie went to the appointment with her. Debbie was again skeptical to hear what a doctor had to say, but this time it was good news. “I can’t tell you how I felt when we got into that room with him that first day,” said Joanie Barth.

“Instead of saying there was no hope,” she recalls, with the help of a bone marrow transplant, “Dr. Waller said my daughter had a “50% to 80% chance of survival.”

“And I said, ‘Dr. Waller, can you tell me whether it’s closer to 50 or 80?’ He looked at me and said, ‘Ms. Barth, Debbie is going to make it.’”

“I just started crying and crying because for the first time, we had hope,” Joanie Barth said. “When he spoke the whole room just filled with hope.”

Many patients like Debbie, who had been told she was too high-risk for a transplant, arrive at the Emory Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Center having exhausted all other options and time. Some have been turned away from other bone marrow treatment centers because their cases are extremely complicated, or because their prognoses are not good. Now, for patients like Debbie, there is hope.

The Emory Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Center is one of the most experienced in the nation, with a team of dedicated physicians who treat patients and not just the disease. With experience unmatched in the Southeast for treating hematologic cancers, the Winship team is expert in treating the even the most complicated of cases. This fall, Winship physicians will perform their 4,000th bone marrow transplant.

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Caregivers of Cancer Patients Need Care Too

Cancer Caregivers SupportFamily members and close friends often take the role of a “caregiver” when a loved one is diagnosed with cancer and begins the cancer treatment process. The caregiver provides physical and emotional care for the cancer patient. Although the caregiver takes this responsibility on in love, they can also easily burn out. The stress and consequences of caregiving can take a toll on both the patient and the caregiver. Some signs that the caregiver might be experiencing caregiver stress or burn out include:

  • Change in weight
  • Change in the amount or pattern of sleep
  • Feelings of anxiety or depression
  • Increased anger or frustration
  • Lack of time for their own needs
  • Feeling overwhelmed or trapped
  • Feeling misunderstood or unsupported
  • Missing or delaying their own medical care
  • Stopping routine exercise, socialization or other healthy daily activities
  • Increased alcohol or drug use

It is imperative that caregivers take care of themselves and not feel guilty about doing this. If the caregiver is not healthy, he or she will not be able to effectively care for the patient either. Some suggestions for caregivers to reduce burnout and improve self care:

  • Reduce Personal Stress -Recognize the symptoms of stress, identify the source of stress, identify what you can and cannot change and take action.
  • Set goals – We are more likely to achieve goals if they are broken into small steps. An example – I will walk 15 minutes every day.
  • Seek Solutions – Once you have identified a problem, taking action to solve it can change the situation and also change your attitude and give you more confidence.
  • Communicate Constructively – Use “I” messages instead of “You” messages, respect the rights and feelings of others, be specific and clear, be a good listener.
  • Ask for and Accept Help – Be honest with yourself and ask for and accept help when needed.
  • Talking to you Physician – Ask for medical advice when you don’t understand the needs of the person receiving care but also seek medical support for yourself.
  • Start to exercise – Exercise promotes better sleep, reduces tension and depression, and increases energy and alertness.
  • Learning from your emotions -Emotions are useful tools for understanding what is happening to us. So, pay attention to them.

Caregiving can be a personally fulfilling and rewarding experience. Take care of yourself in order to best care for your loved ones. They will appreciate your love and care and understand your needs as well.

About James Hankins, MSW, LCSW
James is the Director of Patient Support and Social Services at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. James specializes in providing support and counseling services for patients and their caregivers dealing with all types of cancer. He graduated from Michigan State University and received a Masters in Social Work from Wayne State University. James has spent the majority of his 20 years of professional service focusing on mental health issues related to changes in physical health with special emphasis on the challenges facing caregivers.

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